Tigerhearts: The story you won't have heard

Matt BinksCorrespondent IAugust 12, 2008

This Saturday marks the beginning of the Premier League season. Whilst this is always a huge date in any clubs calendar, for Hull City it is the biggest day in the clubs history.

This Saturday marks the end of the long running title as the biggest city in Europe never to have a top tier football club.

This is an amazing achievement made even more amazing by the fact that only seven years ago, I as a Hull lad, attended Hull City's "last ever game" against Swansea on a freezing Friday night. I remember nothing of the game, only the thousands of "we'll support you ever more" banners displayed before kick off and the tears of an elderly gentleman stood behind me.

This was real. City had been locked out of the ground by some wanker of an ex-tennis player who's name I will not even mention (I will only say, next time you want to get in shape, choose your gym wisely) and were to be liquidised as a club the following Monday.

Miraculously local businessmen managed to find the funds necessary to save "City Hull."

The businessmen ceremoniously awarded the club with a bell, on the instructions that it should not be rang until the day the Tigers make their bow in the Premier League. Saturday is that day.

Whilst this is an amazing story in itself there is, to me, an even more amazing story behind this. A football one.

Peter Taylor, Adam Pearson, Phil Brown and Dean Windass all deserve huge praise for what they contributed to the rise of Hull but the person I want to thank will not be known to many people who read and write on this site. He won't be known to many people full stop. Step forward Warren Joyce.

At the beginning of 1999 Hull found themselves in an awful situation. Ex Rangers and England striker Mark Hateley had led them to nine points adrift at the bottom of the football league. The chairman had already set in motion the event that would lead to the near closure the following year. It was simple, if Hull went down they would be finished.

Hateley departed and was replaced by the clubs journeyman midfielder Warren Joyce. What occurred next was nothing short of remarkable.

Joyce and a rag tag bunch of unwanted professionals including ex bouncer Gary Brabin and St Lucian international Colin Alcide, produced the greatest second half of a season I have ever seen. From being a team unable to win a game, the Tigers became unbeatable, Boothferry Park became a fortress and the team grew and grew with every one nil victory achieved.

The run was so good that if the season had started at Christmas, Hull City would have been promoted automatically.

Joyce was ridiculously sacked by City and replaced by Brian Little. This move disgusted me and I went to being a season pass holder to never again watching my home town club. A move I will not perform a U turn on, Premier League or not.

Joyce's influence again helped Hull City last season. It was Joyce as Royal Antwerp coach who alerted City to Frazier Cambell. A man whose goals helped City to promotion last season.

When the bell is rang on Saturday and thanks are said to the likes of Adam Pearson and Phil Brown, I for one, away from the KC stadium, will be casting my thanks a little further.